“The dirt poor, the filthy rich, all live a paper cup away from each other in the land of perpetual oxymorons.”
– Eric Jerome Dickey
2. Downtown is one of America’s darkest secrets
The amount of homeless people in Los Angeles is just ridiculous! I’ve mentioned it in a few posts before, and if you’ve ever heard me describe my LA experience, you’ve heard me mention the homeless “problem” in LA, about as often as I mention the sunshine.
For the first two weeks of my arrival to LA, I stayed at a hostel in the heart of Downtown LA, on Main Street, off of 7th. It was potentially, two of the most emotionally challenging weeks of my life. I woke up every day to walk outside to see the daunting reality of the devastating homeless norm, seamlessly ingrained into the life of Downtown LA, while every night being rocked to sleep by the startling sounds of the homeless nightlife. I mean, you literally have to watch your every step as you walk along the sidewalk in Downtown, as at any given moment you might find and accidentally step on a sleeping person in the middle of the sidewalk.
Very easily, you find people with homes, equipped with shopping carts, mattresses, blankets, pillows, food and suitcases of belongings, set up at bus stops, building entryways, and parking lots. Directly next door to an incredibly expensive restaurant, you will find a very forgotten, distressed, mentally ill, systematically drugged homeless person’s indefinite living quarters. And as long as they don’t go next door to that restaurant, mess with its patrons, or business, they’re free to do them.
As troubling as this reality is to me, it’s been something I’ve found the most trouble writing about. I wish I could show you pictures, but I haven’t actually built up the guts, will or whatever it is that I need to take a picture of what I saw pervasively downtown, and consistently though, more sporadically throughout all of LA. I have to, though. I need to document this because there is no way to accurately describe how scarily soul damaging the reality of Downtown LA’s homeless population is.
In essence, Downtown belongs to the homeless and mentally ill. It’s as if the city of Los Angeles made a bargain with the homeless, committing to let them run Downtown partially during the daytime (minus the expensive restaurants and businesses) and fully after 6pm. In turn, the government, residents with housing and all of the 42 million plus tourists that visited LA last year, are graciously revoked of all responsibility or acknowledgement of their overwhelming and scarring presence in the city.
The same can be said for a huge portion of Venice Beach. But nothing beats Downtown. And nothing, nothing, nothing, touches Skid Row. That is the scariest place I have ever seen in my life. I drove through there a few times, accidentally as result of getting lost. And the first time I got lost, I found myself balling, overwhelmed by the harrowing reality of how these people were/ are living, without any regard from any human being that can be fortunate enough to choose never to pass by there. I can’t even speak on Skid Row. It’s too much.
Just be expectant of pictures soon. I think I am ready.
Until then, consider the quote from Eric Jerome Dickey’s ‘Between Lovers’, “The dirt poor, the filthy rich, all live a paper cup away from each other in the land of perpetual oxymorons.”
That was his description of NYC.
No one ever mentioned LA.